NANAIMO — Provincial byelection candidates have the first debate of the campaign trail under their belt after a respectful first meeting.
Sheila Malcolmson, Tony Harris and Michele Ney met at the conference centre Monday night for a debate presented by the Forum for Millenial Leadership. It was their first meeting after several weeks officially on the campaign trail with the provincial byelection only nine days away.
The economy and affordability were the key topics of the night, surrounded by conversation about increasing transportation options, removing the MSP and whether Vancouver Island should become a separate province.
“Right now B.C. is leading the country in job growth and we're really proud of that over the last year-and-a-half,” Malcolmson told host Richard Zussman. “We want to keep that going.”
Unemployment in B.C. currently sits at 4.4 per cent, which is the lowest in Canada.
When asked what was the best way to boost the economy, Malcolmson focused on housing and family.
“The economy cannot prosper without people. You build affordable housing, you use the tools we have to bring housing prices down. We've made some progress but it's going to take some time.”
Responding to the same question, Harris brought up investing in the “institutional components of our community,” which he returned to often in his speaking points throughout the night.
“We need to talk about big investments and look asperationally about where we're going,” he told the crowd of roughly 200. “Then the private enterprise will come and support the public component of our community.”
Ney took a different direction, talking about how better education will benefit all sectors.
“By investing in education, science, innovation and technology, we can help support the young people transition into our new economy and they will be the leaders in that economy with small and mid-sized businesses coming to Nanaimo.”
Similar answers were given when asked how to help boost affordability in Nanaimo, which was the other major topic running through the conversation.
Petty politics were kept to a minimum, even during questions which raised social media posts in the past from Harris and both his and Ney's connection to their famous fathers.
Malcolmson did emphasize in most of her answers how the BC Liberals had been in power for 16 years before the previous provincial election.
Voters will get another chance to learn about who's running the represent them in the Legislature at the Chamber of Commerce all-candidates debate on Thursday, Jan. 24 at the Beban Park Social Centre.
Advance voting starts on Jan. 22 with election day on Jan. 30.
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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